"Real prices" at Penny: PR stunt or the future?
In a week-long experiment, the German discount supermarket chain Penny is charging its customers "real prices" for food. These factor in the environmental costs in production. Nine products will be affected, making them for the most part twice as expensive as before. Commentators discuss how much sense it makes to suddenly charge six euros instead of three for sausages.
Apply leverage further up the food chain
The initiative is a good start, but it won’t affect the underlying problems, die Kleine Zeitung notes:
“Food prices are far too low and the environmental damage caused by production is not factored in. ... Environmental damage is much lower with plant-based products. This means that a vegan schnitzel only gets five percent more expensive. As prices stand today, grocery shopping might be pretty cheap but its impact on the environment is costing us dearly. But to demand higher ‘environmental prices’ at the till is no solution. It only puts more financial strain on end consumers, many of whom are already struggling. The important thing is to make changes higher up the food chain, for example by strengthening regional markets by reducing transport routes.”
This is a political matter
The Frankfurter Rundschau is unimpressed by the experiment:
“The idea is based on individualistic thinking. On the belief that consumers can influence the market with their buying choices. ... But in reality, capital tends to profit from the invisible hand of the market. ... So instead of punishing customers, it’s production processes that need to change, and ideally the relations of production. No private companies will do that of their own free will, of course, because their aim is to maximise profit. This is a political matter: regulation and price capping are what is called for. Then a lot more people would be able to afford more environmentally friendly products.”
It will be back to business-as-usual next week
Wirtschaftswoche sees a cliché confirmed:
“The supermarket chain will return to business-as-usual and rock bottom prices next week. Again entrenching the image of the thrifty German customer who is simply not prepared to spend decent money on food. Which is supposed to feed the conclusion that companies like Penny have their hands tied: as long as the Germans remain stingy, they cannot save the world.”